Carl Dahlström and Victor Lapuente, Organizing Leviathan: Politicians, Bureaucrats, and the Making of Good Government (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017). 262 pp. $29.99 (paperback), ISBN 9781316630655

Date01 January 2019
Published date01 January 2019
144 Public Administration Review Januar y | Fe brua ry 201 9
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 79, Iss. 1, pp. 144–146. © 2019 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.13022
James L. Perry is Distinguished
Professor Emeritus in the School of Public
and Environmental Affairs at Indiana
University, Bloomington. He was Editor
in Chief of
Public Administration Review
from 2012 to 2017. He is a Fellow of the
National Academy of Public Administration
and recipient of several awards for career
contributions in public administration and
public management.
Carl Dahlström and Victor Lapuente, Organizing Leviathan:
Politicians, Bureaucrats, and the Making of Good
Government (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press,
2017). 262 pp. $29.99 (paperback), ISBN 9781316630655
The main purpose of this book is to investigate
rigorously the underpinnings for the quality
of government. Its thesis is relatively simple:
relations between politicians and bureaucrats matter
and they matter on a variety of fronts, ranging from
corruption, to government effectiveness, to capacity
for government reform.
Dahlström and Lapuente make a compelling case to
illuminate a set of issues that gnawed at me when I
was Public Administration Review (PAR) Editor in
Chief. I expressed concern about levels of corruption
in the United States, the robust scholarship about
corruption outside public administration, and
the lack of attention within the modern public
administration literature to the corruption
phenomenon (Perry 2015). This book helps give my
inchoate concerns some structure and points to a
path forward for making corruption research—and,
more broadly, research on government quality—
central to the scholar–practitioner dialogue in public
The authors present their complex and
multidimensional case carefully and intentionally.
Chapter 1, Why Relations Between Politicians and
Bureaucrats Matter, is the shortest chapter in the
book, largely introductory, telling readers what
the book is about and how it will unfold. During
the course of the introduction, the authors lay out
some important definitional information and hint
at the case they develop throughout the book. The
authors get to the heart of their enterprise in the
opening paragraphs of the book. In the first two
sentences they write: “This book deals with quality of
government. In our view, governments of high quality
act impartially, are non-corrupt, and use resources
efficiently” (1). Thus, from the outset, we know the
book is about quality of government, defined in
terms of efficiency, noncorruption, and impartiality.
As an objective, quality of government is not only
distinct from the sometimes amorphous and often
micro “performance” construct about which we have
heard so much in recent years (Andersen, Boesen, and
Pedersen 2016), but it is clearly identified.
In Chapter 2, Theory, the authors set out the case
for the core processes that sustain good government.
Dahlström and Lapuente write:
The main idea in this book is that if the
organization of the state apparatus, or
the Leviathan in the book’s title, divides
public officials into two distinct groups, the
possibilities for abuse and opportunism by
public officials are diminished because these
two groups have different career incentives. (13)
The authors go on to argue that the separation of
political and bureaucratic careers puts the two groups
into positions to respond to different regimens of
accountability that are characterized by different
incentives. The distinct incentive systems make
politicians accountable to electors and bureaucrats
accountable to professional peers. What is more,
the distinct incentives stimulate mutual monitoring
between the groups and capabilities for bureaucrats to
speak truth to power.
In building a case for their theory, Dahlström and
Lapuente begin by testing the validity of an alternative
theory because of its prominence and longevity in
the social sciences. Chapter 3, A Closed Weberian
Bureaucracy, looks at whether guaranteeing lifelong
careers and specific legal protections to bureaucrats,
essentially formal regulations, is the key to curbing
corruption. The authors designate the bureaucratic
rules theory for the control of corruption “a closed
Weberian bureaucracy” because of its origins in
Weber’s bureaucratic theory. Interestingly, although
many scholars and practitioners are inclined to affirm
the theory, Dahlström and Lapuente show that it falls
short of predicting control of corruption.
Dahlström and Lapuente embark in Chapter 4,
Corruption, to show that the theoretical argument
Reviewed by: James L. Perry
Indiana University, Bloomington

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